The Inner Beauty of the Sky in Van Gogh's Starry Night

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The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York organized a variation or adaptation contest to celebrate the work and life of the artists whose art pieces displayed at its museum for a chance to win a fall scholarship to the School of Visual Arts in New York City and a lifetime access to the MoMA museum. My love of art and poetry drove me to participate in this competition. Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh was my chosen piece for this competition.

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter, born March 30, 1853 in Zundert, Netherlands. Considered one of the greatest post-impressionists. He left school at age fifteen, due to his family’s financial struggles. In 1880, he decided to move to Brussels and become an artist. He struggled with mental illness; his art helped him stay emotionally balanced. His paintings are notable for beauty, emotion and color. “Starry Night” is one of the most popular modern-day artworks and one of the most celebrated and recognizable paintings. The piece is an oil on canvas painting, currently owned by and displayed at the MoMA Museum. This piece is very popular, featured on towels, coffee mugs and shirts. Vincent painted it while he was a patient at a mental hospital in Saint-Remy in 1889 dealing with his mental illness and depression. During this period, Gogh’s work was restricted, hospital staff allowed him to work only if his mental health improves. The artist was deprived of what he loves the most, his paintings. One night he viewed the skies from his room window and enjoyed its beauty, but because painting in his room on the second floor was not an option, he had to wait until after he passed a course of treatment. He went back to draw from memory and his imagination following the likes of Gauguin. The result was a brilliant art piece shown here that shows swirling and flaming clouds that directs the viewer’s eye around the painting, a lucent crescent of the moon seen on the top right-hand corner of the painting where dramatic contours of the brushworks seen. Moreover, eleven bright and magnified stars overlooking his small hometown in Netherland giving an exaggerated impression that the sky is about to collapse. Night sky dominated the painting; it took up three-quarters of the picture. 

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Van Gogh loved nighttime, he repeatedly appealed to mysterious objects in nature it shows on many of his paintings. You could say that the night sky made him feel at peace with himself, his works brings out the beauty of the night that true lovers of night enjoy to this day. Vincent van Gogh suffered with depression and illusions for years, this disease affected his mind, body, and thoughts. Starry Night painting used stars and moon as the only sources of light; it looks like light is descending from the heaven. He painted a silent and dark village at the bottom of the painting, which is describing the darkness he was suffering from. The darkness represents how gloomy his world was, and how little attention and help given to him. He painted starts and moon in yellow and circular shapes instead of normal white color and pointed start form. Clouds, stars, and moon appear to be agitated, with intense motion, which gives a sense of drama. Clouds seem to roll across the sky. Expressive thick brushstrokes are easily seen, dense colors used specially his choice of yellow, and blue add extra depth to the piece. The dark curvy cypress tree, which is typically associated with mourning, grows between the sky and the earth, it represents life but it also extends into haven. The fact that these trees mostly planted in cemeteries added sadness and a sign that he knows death is inevitable, but when it does come it will give him eternal peace. Amazingly, he managed to separate the sky from earth. The motion in the sky looked like it has no effect on the village below peacefully asleep. My poem below is a variation of this piece that tries to capture the feeling of at least 300 million people worldwide in general and of Vincent Gogh in particular that are fighting mental illness and suffering from depression.

The purpose of my variation is to draw attention to depression and mental illness. This disease costs the United States an estimated forty-four billion dollars. It is second only to cancer on the impact to our society. Yet, we do not have big organizations to help people who suffer from extreme anxiety, insomnia, and even thoughts of suicide. In the last few years, our county suffered many mass shootings and mentally ill persons perpetrated most. Vincent Gogh did not have good support; he sadly lost his battle and took his own life. Using art to help millions of people with their conditions and touch their life is the ultimate our goal.

Poetry just like Art help depression sufferers to escape their conditions and give them some hope that light is at the end of the tunnel. Let us stand together against the illnesses, sometimes the most helpful thing you can offer to someone going through depression is your presence. Just providing a shoulder to cry on can be very comforting. Vincent believed that his painting was a gift meant to be shared, a profound act of love. He earned recognition for his artwork after his death and in his lifetime, he only sold one painting, he lived and died poor. Vincent’s art today is the most valuable in the world, while during his time no one acknowledged it. The love in his work was not reciprocated which eventually led the artist to the desperation of suicide. The best way to share his artwork on his behalf is to add a $5.00 to the MoMA admission fee per family. These funds would support organizations that fight against depression and mental illness.

We can conclude from the analysis that Vincent van Gogh was a nighttime lover and saw the inner beauty in the night sky, which people usually overlook. He has communicated from his painting that nighttime is not just about darkness; it can sometimes be so illuminating and can contain a ray of hope which leaves the worldly things looking dark and dull in its comparison. The painting also contains a link between life and death, which is present there due to the artist’s ill health and his knowledge about death being inevitable. Though he was not looking forward to it, he had accepted the idea that death might be coming soon and he would eventually have to come to terms with it.

Starry Night reflect Gogh’s turbulent quest to overcome his illness. While it’s easy to see that Gogh’s, depression made his art better; understanding how he managed to paint one of the best painting in modern history while being in a period of intense suffering isn’t as easy.

Depression is a disorder; lack of energy and low self-esteem are some of its symptoms. Depression is often accompanied by self-destructive feelings that interfere with our daily life. People fail to recognize its signs and seek help early in their children’s life. To begin a recovery, do not listen to your inner destructive voices when they tell you not to pursue your goals, or to isolate yourself. Be active, exercising improve your mood. Even getting out of the house for walk improves the way you feel. Do not be embarrassed to share your feeling, and most importantly see a therapist. Asking for help is a brave act and speaking to therapist is healthy.   

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